Measuring Success

Wealth, job title, and happiness are some of the most common measures of success. It’s important to measure success the right way because it informs how you spend your time and effort. If you don’t measure success in terms of what’s truly important to you, you can’t work towards getting there.

Peter Drucker, one of the great management theorists and a favorite author of mine, stated this idea more succinctly:  “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

However, it’s hard to do define success in large part because it is different for everyone – well it should be, at least. Now two companies or people are on the same path. Cognitive biases and external pressures get in the way of people and companies realizing what they actually want to be successful. As professional managers, we like to measure everything. The question is……. Are we measuring the important things that really makes us successful as person, team member or manager?  Having a mindset of your personal success or sharing in the vision of what your company measures their success by is important in reaching the goal of identifying yourself as successful.

Here are some strategies that have helped me define my inner success and provides me with a tools to work towards achieving meaningful goals.

  1. Discover your values

Highly motivated people often focus too much on execution without spending enough time to think about what it is they should in the first place. Being able to achieve a success metric is hard, but knowing which metric to achieve is important. Once again, I look to Mr. Drucker for motivation:

“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

Discover what you value and choose your own metrics for success. If you don’t choose for yourself, you’ll end up flowing with the current of the culture around you, which may or may not be fulfilling for you.

Once you choose your metric, you might realize that you’re already “successful.” Or you might realize that you’re spending your time and energy working towards a goal that isn’t in line with your values.


  1. Compare yourself only to yourself

We have a tendency to measure our success in comparison to our peers. If your friend Ashely is making more money than you, you might feel like a failure.

Social comparison bias is a cognitive bias that explains that our judgments are often influenced by comparisons to other people. A benchmark makes it easier to make a judgment, but it will not necessarily be a more accurate judgment. I once read that true success is attained only through the satisfaction of knowing you did everything within the limits of your ability to become the very best that you are capable of being.

If your success metrics are too far beyond what’s realistically achievable, you will inevitably be disappointed. If you maintain reasonable expectations and put in the work, you might just realize how successful you already are.

  1. Measure what’s hard to measure

It’s easy to measure financial success. You can see a number in your bank account.  It’s easy to manage for financial success simply because it’s easier to measure.

Most people would consider Elon Musk to be highly successful; Right? You can see his success right in front of you. He has companies, money, rockets, and cars. But it’s hard to see what’s going on in his head. In a Tweet in July 2017, Musk talked about the unrelenting stress that comes with his line of work: He tweeted,

How do you measure success?

It’s hard to measure many of the things that I care most about: mental and physical health, relationships, freedom, and fulfillment. Don’t forget to incorporate some qualitative analysis into how you measure success.

  1. Measure results over the long-term

Success doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes a lot of failures to get there. Hopefully, we learn from each of them!

Don’t just measure immediate tangible results to define success. Consider what you’ve learned and how it will help you achieve success in the future.

Opportunities that take time to deliver results can be great opportunities because many people crave immediate results. SEO is a great example of such an opportunity. It can take months to start seeing results, which compels many companies to favor paid advertising. However, once SEO starts working, you can achieve consistent and profitable growth.

Don’t define yourself solely by your current circumstances. Consider who you are becoming.

  1. Learn and iterate

Video chain Blockbuster measured success based on profits from in-store DVD rentals. Netflix measured success based on subscriptions for streaming movies on the internet. DVD rentals were yesterday’s metric for success. Streaming subscriptions is today’s metric for success. You know who won that battle.


Dynamic inconsistency is a situation where the best plan for the future is not optimal when that future period arrives. We live in a fast-paced world that’s constantly changing. And as humans, we’re always learning and growing, too.

As you get older, your values will likely change. You will gain experience and learn what’s most important to you. When I was younger, job titles and salaries were my metrics for success. Now, the way I measure success is far more robust. I consider my health, relationships and personal freedom and growth. Perhaps your metrics have changed over time too? What’s important is to stay flexible in your thinking but firm in your values as you contribute to your success and the success of your company. We need to measure our daily, weekly and longer successes in business in order to not become a Blockbuster or Toys “R” Us.

Don’t be afraid to change how you measure success as you change as a person. Your company picked you to work with them…… You’re already successful just by performing and contributing to the success of the company you work with!

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